Innovation & the Enterprise CIO: In for the long haul

notebook with glasses on it for the enterprise CIO

Today’s IT is fast becoming the epicenter of every business, from cheese makers to shoemakers to fiber optic cable makers. What’s pushed IT and everything around IT so far up the corporate ladder is technology and innovation. This is so prevalent, that in today’s thoroughly modern workplace, you can’t open a door, a drawer or a window, let alone communicate with an employee or a client without clicking, swiping or zapping something. Now, that’s some real fine technology.

But with technology came innovation, with innovation came IT and with IT, came the transformation of a very well-oiled machine called the Chief Information Officer, the CIO.

Enter the modern CIO. They’re tech-savvy, digitally in-the-know and of late, all eyes are on them to make important corporate decisions, strategic decisions and above all, technology decisions. Today’s enterprise CIO has a closet full of fun tech toys, they’re ensconced in software, hardware, malware, Tupperware – you name it. But to keep their organizations moving forward, to remain competitive and responsive, smart CIOs know that their company’s future is based on cost-effective IT selection and implementation and without it, they may as well close up shop now.

“CIOs are in an excellent position to lead and take their right place in the boardroom,” says Don Scheibenreif, vice-president and analyst at Gartner. “CIOs must realize that old organizational strategies will inhibit digital transformation.”

Don’s right. We agree with Don. In fact, now more than ever before, the modern CIO has acquired a substantial following from company management, the board of directors and even the media. Peter Sondergaard, another senior Gartner vice-president, was quoted as saying, “CIOs must build again. Rather than cut IT budgets, the digitisation of business requires IT investment.”

He further urges CIOs to think of IT as an asset, not a cost and that by altering their perception, it would, in turn, transform their stake in company strategy and corporate level decision-making, make the CIO – the go-to-guy, the company king.

Once upon a time, the CIO’s role was all about automation coupled with management and operation of the company’s processes and workflow. Today, this is a still a prerequisite, but not enough face a brand new world. We think that IDG Enterprise says it best. They effectively define the evolution of the roles and responsibilities of the CIO, almost conveniently fitting them into three categories: strategic CIOs, transformational CIOs, and functional CIOs.

If you’re an enterprise CIO and you’re reading this, fear not. Just because you might fit into one of these categories today, does not guarantee that you’ll fit into the same or any category for that matter, tomorrow. Hence, the ever-changing role of the CIO, but IDG says it best – “A CIO’s focus shifts based on business need.”

But no matter what role they play, all CIO functions are a true reflection of company strategy, trickling down from the chair to the board, from the board to the management, and from the management, to the CIO. The same CIO wearing the same hat, will lead the selection process for new business management software, for example. They will scan the market for vendors, send out invites for bids, target reference customers, cost compare. Then they’ll have to assess their internal needs – processes, infrastructure, security. While these are all pretty much functional tasks, the same CIO with the same hat, now has to push the pause button and become a super strategist, a forward thinker, a soothsayer. A dragon slayer.

“He hasn’t even left his office today. It’s only noon and his role has changed 6 times!”

Let’s face facts, the enterprise CIO is not only in the spotlight, typically, they are the spotlight. The road between innovation and the enterprise CEO is as long as it is wide. We’ve compiled some insightful bits on who and what a CIO should be. These are from varying sources and publications, which, in actual fact, ALL said the very same thing about today’s CIOs.

  1. CIOs must focus on developing technology-empowered business strategies.
  2. CIOs must be at the forefront of technology and must be the one who brings the company to the proverbial – technological edge.
  3. CIOs must be responsible for business outcomes no less than any other member of the board or management team.
  4. CIOs must be able to identify, analyze and understand market trends, lead the pack and be the first adapters.
  5. CIOs must not be afraid of change – of transformation, such as migrating to the cloud, software upgrades, BI tools, cyber security, mobile apps, and a myriad of other new and oftentimes, scary technologies.
  6. CIOs must build and maintain a strong IT department that is infused with intelligent technology, freeing up time and resources for both the CIO and IT staff to focus on growing the business.

The defense rests.
And so does the CIO, who must be pretty darn exhausted after reading this post.

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The Author
Efrat Nakibly
Director of Consulting, Priority Software U.S.

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